Black Mermaid

I’m totally into the idea of making the mermaid black. I spend all day going, “yes, you absolutely look like Elsa. Yes, you are a spitting image of Rapunzel.” I once suggested Klara could be Anna for a change because she has more of Anna’s personality but this caused extreme offense because Anna’s hair is red. This shit really matters to toddlers. If they don’t have a character who looks like them, they get really sad. So I think adults should suck it up and deal with a black mermaid.

It’s very weird for adults to care. As long as the babies are happy, who cares what the characters look like?

Zero Energy

Today I

– finished my Valencia talk

– paid the association’s bills

– filed the association’s taxes

– did a bunch of customer service work for the association

– wrote and sent 9 acceptance letters

– made a rice and chicken casserole and a jar of celery juice.

And now I have zero energy to start packing. The trip is on Monday but I was supposed to pack today because I have a very full schedule until then.

More Research

Research-wise, I think have taken on more than I can handle. The book, the edited volume, an article for the edited volume, two articles, two conference talks, two book reviews – all on the subjects ranging from the Basques to Central American literature to feminism to poetry of the crisis to children’s literature in the early 19th century. (There is an organizing principle, I promise. I’m not completely scatter-brained.)

I urgently need more psychological health to get it all done. It’s all in how much psychological health you’ve got.

By the way, reader Z, why aren’t you contributing to our edited volume? It’s feminism and transnationalism. You’d be great on this.

A Great Experience

From the New York Times:

“Dayvin Mungia, 7, arrived from El Salvador at South Grade Elementary in South Florida last year with, it seemed, no schooling at all. “He didn’t even recognize the first letter of his name,” said Nicol Sakellarios, his second-grade teacher…

Laura Martin, 16, who attended school for only three years in Guatemala and speaks an indigenous language, plans to enroll in high school in Florida next month. “Illiterate” and “0” were scrawled on a math work sheet that she tried and failed to complete after she made her way across the border in May.

Migrant children arriving in record numbers are creating challenges for school districts across the country. Many of the newcomers have disjointed or little schooling; their parents, often with limited reading and writing skills themselves and no familiarity with the American education system, are unable to help… Last year, the Palm Beach County school district enrolled 4,555 Guatemalan students in K through 12, nearly 50 percent more than two years earlier. Many of the students come from the country’s remote highlands and speak neither Spanish nor English. The number of elementary school students in K through 5 more than doubled to 2,119 in that same period.

But remember, this isn’t welfare. It’s a great experience for everybody in those schools and it’s wrong to deny this experience to as many people as possible. I say, let’s punish these teachers for not getting every kid in the school college ready. Wait, we already do. Well, everything is in order then.

Things You Can’t Change

As you probably know, geneticists were persecuted in Stalin’s USSR. The leading scholars of genetics were killed. For nothing, for being scientists. The rest were jailed, or at the very best, publicly humiliated, stripped of all scholarly degrees and fired. Most people know about this. But do you know why it happened? Why genetics in particular was singled out?

Cybernetics was also disliked by Stalin but the anti-cybernetics campaign consisted of a few mocking articles. There was no internationally recognized school of cybernetics in the USSR. Ragging in cybernetics was just a way to signal the preoccupation with the post-war technological advances of the US. But genetics? Destroying genetics meant severely hurting agriculture in an already starving country. Why start murdering scientists who studied inherited characteristics in plants?

At the core of genetics is the idea that heredity matters. There are things about you, me, and every living organism that can’t be changed because they were inherited. This idea was intolerable to the proponents of the Communist ideology. They couldn’t abide the thought that humans just have to accept the dictates of nature. “We take what we need from nature,” they declared. “We don’t sit around and wait for the nature to give its benefits to us.”

To disprove the laws of heredity, the Soviet anti-geneticists made absurd claims that fit in with their belief that nature is infinitely malleable. For instance, they claimed that cuckoo birds – some of whose species are brood parasites and lay their eggs in other birds’ nests – don’t really leave their eggs for other birds to raise. Instead, the Soviet biologists claimed, cuckoo birds “spontaneously appear” in other birds’ nests. It’s all a meaningless accident, they said. Two larks don’t necessarily produce a lark. They can produce a cuckoo because there are no laws of nature. Also, if you are born a cuckoo, you don’t have to remain one. You can be transformed into something different if human beings choose to place you in a set of propitious conditions and guide your development into something else.

Geneticists were told they were all Nazis and racists because believing that some traits are inherited inevitably leads to believing that human beings are different because of an accident of birth and can’t change those differences no matter how hard they try.

We all know how the story ends. Geneticists won the argument, and there have been stunning advances in genetic scholarship since then.

The ideas that inspired their persecutors are still very much alive, however. And so are the tactics used to persecute those who disagree.